At the height of the Mavrodi Mundial Moneybox (MMM) Ponzi scheme craze of 2016, I lost my girlfriend—a sweet, beautifully shaped babe from Imo State who was very, very interested in making money. Loads of money. Her surname must have been ‘Ego’ or something close.
And to think that we were already discussing marriage, meeting families and all that jazz.
She was one of the lords of her MMM cell in Lagos. She would spend valuable phone time preaching MMM to me and telling me how foolish I was not to see the money everyone else was making from MMM.
She made more money by recruiting people to invest in the scheme. The more people she got in, the richer she became. We had heated debates when she wanted me to recruit with her or invest my money in MMM. I was having none of it.
I told her the whole thing was going to crash. That it was a Ponzi scheme. A scam. I cited instances of MMM crashing and burning bank accounts in other countries before it arrived Nigeria. I told her I wasn’t going to put a dime in MMM because sooner or later, everyone in MMM Nigeria was going to regret ever hedging their bets with the scheme.
One day, as I drove from Ikoyi to my office in Lekki, she called to break up with me because she couldn’t understand why I wasn’t supporting “her hustle” and why the media, of which I was a part, “hated MMM so much”. It's the one and only time anyone has ever broken up with me in hellish Lagos traffic.
MMM was beginning to encounter problems across the country and the line of new investors was becoming a trickle. Cash was becoming scarce for MMM investors and my babe felt I was one of the reasons why.
Days later, MMM crashed with a thud felt round the country. My Imo babe and I haven’t been in touch since then. We have both lost each other’s phone numbers. On top MMM.
I remember visiting Port Harcourt soon after MMM crashed and watching as people stood on long queues at ATM dispensing stations, hoping to get some money out. Some were crying and fainting outside cash dispensing machines as it dawned on them that all the money they threw into MMM was gone.
Three years after MMM led many Nigerians to wail and curse, another money quadrupling scheme called Loom arrives, with a similar get-rich-quick appeal and promise. As I write, Nigerians are already testifying glowingly about their huge pay days at Loom.
Loom is a peer-to-peer pyramid scheme which involves people being invited to invest as little as N1000, N2000, or N13,000, with the promise that they would recoup as much as eight times the value of the amount they invested, within a short period of time.
Like MMM, Loom works in a pyramid and there are levels to this thing. The Loom pyramid is grouped into four colour-coded levels - purple, blue, orange and red. Loom operates from WhatsApp groups.
The first person to sign up to the group sits in the red level, which is the central level, and gets the payout when the group fills up.
Two people sit in the orange level, while four investors fill the blue level. The purple level takes new entrants with eight spots open.
Once the eight spots in the purple level are filled, the group splits into top half and bottom half as the investors in the outer levels move into new levels.
The new groups of seven investors each then have to recruit eight new investors to once again break the circles into another two groups.
Investors are typically invited to join a WhatsApp group and are advised to recruit as many other investors as possible because the scheme only works if it keeps a steady stream of new investors to pay earlier investors.
The more people are recruited into the group, the quicker it breaks and the quicker the payouts are to investors. The initial investment is usually paid to the group admin who sits in the red level.
If you invest N1,000, you get N8,000; if you invest N2,000, you get N16,000; and if you invest N13,000 you will reap N104,000.
It really is tempting to Loom right now, trust me. But what happens when new investors aren’t streaming into your WhatsApp group or hundreds of Loom WhatsApp groups around the country? What happens when people cash out and refuse to re-join? What happens when enthusiasm wanes and people become more restrained when they hear that the scheme is crashing elsewhere? Here is what will happen: the scheme crashes, people lose money, wail and cuss and threaten Loom with fire and brimstone.
Like every Ponzi scheme, Loom operates a flat structure. There are no bosses, heads or people calling the shots from marbled offices. There are no known faces to this thing. Just unsustainable money in circulation. And everyone is a player. The game is the game.
Historically, Ponzi schemes are set up to last for a short time. A Ponzi scheme isn’t the most sustainable way to invest your hard earned money. While you jubilate at the moment and tell family and friends that the whole set-up is real, the day would definitely come when the cash dries up and the millions you just invested never return. That day would eventually come when the last pay you funneled into the scheme would be the last the scheme receives before everyone disappears…before the scheme packs up and everyone wails at the feet of cash dispensing machines.
Loom is a looming disaster. For your sake, don’t just do. Don’t be like my babe--the one who got away.